Work / International Women's Day

The ambitious trio behind Azeema Magazine on empowering Middle Eastern and North African women

Azeema is the independent magazine exploring strength and femininity within Middle Eastern and North African women and women of colour. The brainchild of its founding editor, Jameela Elfaki, Azeema is the magazine she wanted to see while growing up. With a team now including deputy editor, Noor Alabdulbaqi and associate editor Sunayah Arshad, Azeema is tackling an industry head-on by filling a gap that’s been left empty for far too long. We caught up with the ambitious trio to find out more about how they are attempting to make a difference.


Images courtesy of Azeema. Photography by Jameela Elfaki

Tell us more about the team that makes up Azeema

Jameela: I’m a photographer and fashion creative based in London, of mixed heritage: Sudanese and English. I started Azeema last May and we are now a team of three! Myself, Sunayah and Noor work together to create Azeema and we’re extremely close friends too.

Sunayah: I live with Jameela and was aware of this interesting, bold and beautiful project she was working on last year. I occasionally assisted her on shoots and the more it came together, the more I realised how important it was. I knew I wanted to be more involved with the second issue. Azeema has helped me connect to my Pakistani roots and introduced us all to so many incredible individuals.

Noor: I contacted Jameela after seeing the first issue because I knew it was a magazine I wish I had whilst growing up. Most of my childhood was spent in Saudi Arabia followed by Japan and then the UK. I had a lot to share and Azeema was an inclusive platform. A platform that champions the diversity of women, particularly Middle Eastern women, so I was ecstatic to join the team!


Images courtesy of Azeema. Photography by Jameela Elfaki


Images courtesy of Azeema. Photography by Jameela Elfaki

Who are some of the women who have inspired the stories in your first two issues?

We’re constantly being inspired by the incredible women we’ve met through Azeema and the individuals that have done or are doing something to create a positive change in society. Some of the women who inspire us in our modern society include Mona Eltahawy, Yumna Al-Arashi, Maya Arulpragasam (M.I.A), Princess Nokia, Sevdaliza, Adwoa Aboah, Liv Little, Nadia Tehran and Balqis AlRashed. We also try to reference societal issues that refer to women of colour, to raise awareness and encourage discussion around them.

What is the “mission statement” of Azeema and where does the name come from?

Azeema is an Arabic name. It means determination, resoluteness, firmness of purpose and strength. We aim to provide women of colour, particularly Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) women, with a safe space where they feel loved, celebrated, represented and accepted. We aim to be not just a magazine, but a platform for these women so their voices can be heard and shared, with the hope that it will empower and inspire women of colour to embrace their identities and cultures.


Images courtesy of Azeema. Photography by Jameela Elfaki


Images courtesy of Azeema. Photography by Jameela Elfaki

Can you tell us about some of your favourite stories from your first two issues?

Borders was the cover shoot for the first issue, which referred to the driving ban on women in Saudi Arabia. It was a stand for resistance and solidarity with all the individuals who fought long and hard to end the ban. The ban was lifted a few months later. It was a great moment for reflection and celebration of women’s rights.

Bo$$y is one of the most fun editorials that we’ve shot. It’s a reminder to women of colour that they are resilient, intelligent and independent women, who are capable of being at the forefront of their workplace.

Diary of a Borderline is a story by Afshan Sharif which discusses a personal perspective of mental health and is one that particularly moved each of us when we read it. It’s a beautiful, honest and brave piece written by an amazing woman.

Can you tell us anything about issue three?

We’re aiming to launch issue three in September of this year. We can’t give much away in terms of themes, but this one will be a strong combination of topics and ideas that run through both issue one and two, plus more. We’ve learnt a lot from these, so we’re hoping this will be the best one yet!


Images courtesy of Azeema. Photography by Jameela Elfaki


Images courtesy of Azeema. Photography by Jameela Elfaki


Images courtesy of Azeema. Photography by Jameela Elfaki


Images courtesy of Azeema. Photography by Jameela Elfaki


Images courtesy of Azeema. Photography by Jameela Elfaki